The top ten natural sources of probiotics
Good health is so much more than just “not being sick”. Genuine wellness results in glowing skin, shiny hair, bright eyes, a clear mind, energy, strength, vitality, immunity, and longevity. Good health sees an improvement in mood and outlook, productivity, and quality of life on every level.
It’s not something we should ever take for granted, and it’s certainly one of the most important things to invest in.
Since so much of the body’s health starts in the gut - after all, you are what you eat - one of the most effective ways to achieve overall health is to get your gut healthy. Probiotics have been proven to reverse many of the most common gut health problems, including irritable bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, and candidiasis. These conditions often result in a host of knock-on (and seemingly unrelated) disorders, so solving one problem can actually resolve many symptoms.
The best way to get any health supplement into your body is the natural way: whole foods in a good diet.
Probiotics can be found in a range of food we eat every day, as well as some less common culinary delights we can add to our menus. These include:
Last week we looked at the myriad health benefits of this ancient fermented milk drink, so it’s only natural that this energy powerhouse makes the top of our list of natural sources of probiotics. Packed with both pre- and probiotics, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, it’s hard to beat kefir as a whole food supplement for - well, pretty much everything you need. Read last week’s article here [Sources of Natural Probiotics: Kefir] to find out more.
Second only to kefir (and a good deal more delicious), yoghurt is one of the most popular and well-known sources of natural probiotics. It’s important to look for natural, organic, full-fat varieties - preferably with the words “live and active cultures” on the label. Avoid sweetened, flavoured, or coloured options, which are little more than dressed up dessert, and may actually do more harm than good.
While sauerkraut may not be to everyone’s taste, this German favourite can be delicious as a side dish, and is packed with probiotic goodness. Look for unpasteurised sauerkraut - ideally from a trusted organic or whole food vendor. Pasteurisation used for supermarket sauerkraut kills the beneficial bacteria, which is really the main reason to buy this exotic side dish. Sauerkraut is also packed with immune-boosting vitamins, which can help stave off infection.
Very similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is an asian dish made from fermented vegetables. It can be a challenge to find kimchi, but it’s worth the effort - especially if you have an asian market nearby. Again, avoid the pasteurised brands as this process destroys the very bacteria a healthy body needs.
5. Soft Cheeses
Certain softer cheeses - such as Gouda, Camembert, and Brie - make excellent probiotic carriers. They are hardy enough to survive the upper digestive tract and deliver their healthful load to the gut, where it’s most needed. And of course, they’re delicious!
6. Miso Soup
Miso soup is very popular in Japan, where it is often eaten for breakfast. Since it is made from fermented soybean paste, it's best to steer clear of this pungent soup if you have soya allergies. Having said that, this delicious soup is low in calories and high in B vitamins, and probiotics. It’s also great for getting the digestive system going each day, and keeping you regular.
7. Sour Pickles
You probably didn’t know that sour pickles are often full of healthy natural probiotics. Vinegar can kill the healthy bacteria you’re after, so choose brands fermented in sea salt and water. This process feeds the good gut flora you need, and can improve digestion.
8. Sourdough Bread
While digestive disorders often either result in or even cause gluten intolerance, some breads are actually very good for the gut. Dark rye and traditional German sourdough bread - especially when made by reputable artisanal bakers - can be worth their weight in digestive gold by safely delivering their healthy bacteria to your gut. Just add some soft cheese, a couple of pickles, and a tablespoon of sauerkraut - and wash it all down with a glass of kefir - and you’re good to go. Literally!
9. Milk With Probiotics
It’s probably pretty obvious that food with added probiotics is a good source of probiotics. While this practise is fairly new in South Africa, overseas countries are seeing an upsurge in adding acidophilus to milk. Sometimes labelled Sweet Acidophilus Milk, it can also be packaged as buttermilk or maas. Good quality variations will have live active cultures. While these may be an acquired taste for many of us, your digestive health will thank you for taking the brave step of trying one of them for yourself.
Another soya product, tempeh is a fermented soybean patty that originates from Indonesia. It is high in protein, with a smoky, nutty flavour (similar to some mushrooms). Tempeh can be used to replace meat in some meals, In addition to the healthy gut flora it contains, tempeh is a source of natural antibiotics, too. This means it can fight off certain kinds of infection as well.
According to WebMD:
While probiotic-foods have live bacteria, prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria already living in your gut. You can find prebiotics in items such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes. Try prebiotic foods on their own or with probiotic foods to perhaps give the probiotics a boost.